Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Beatrix Potter Country

I've been lucky this year to visit a couple of Enid Blyton places, and
with the trip to the Lakes this weekend for The Great North Swim, there
was no question about seeing a literary landscape on the way. My
boyfriend spent most of the weekend reading about Arthur Ransome places
in Christina Hardyment's Captain Flint's Trunk, and it felt like there
were so many literary connections in the area, not to mention seeing
places which have inspired artists and musicians. However, in my mind
there was only one place that I really wanted to go, and that was
Beatrix Potter's farm - Hill Top

The property is in the pretty village of Near Sawrey, which features in
many of her books, and is halfway up the hill. It is divided into two
parts, the working farm, and the half of the house that was inhabited by
the tenant farmer, and the half where Potter lived. It was bequeathed to
the National Trust on condition it was left pretty much as in Potter's
life, and is thus still a working farm. Potter was not only a children's
book writer but actually a businesswoman, heavily involved in the
running of this farm, and the other 13 that she owned. The part of the
house that can be visited is very small, and timed tickets are in operation
- I still felt that despite this measure it was very crowded. There
were only 6 rooms to see, but many of them had Peter Rabbit memorabilia.
There was also a fascinating Gerard's Herbal from 1623; before she started
writing books, Potter was hugely interested in Botany and did some research
which according to the room steward was well ahead of its time - however,
because she was female, it couldn't be submitted to the Royal Society.

We also loved the cottage garden; it was easy to see how this was
inspiration for her drawings.

After this visit, we still had some time before we left for home, so
decided to go and do the "Beatrix Potter Attraction" with Peter Rabbit Garden. It was
cheesy, and it was mainly designed for the younger end of the tourism
market, but actually it was rather fun. There was a short film about
Beatrix Potter, tableux of many of the stories, information about each
of the books, and the Peter Rabbit Garden where we saw a real mouse!
They have identified the plants featured in her illustrations, and
intriguingly, the famous picture of Peter Rabbit does not depict him
eating a carrot but a rare variety of radish. Worth the £6.75 entrance
fee just to learn that!

I resisted buying any biographies of Potter whilst at the house,
although unusually for me, I did buy the guidebook "Beatrix Potter and
Hill Top" which has a short account of her life and pictures of the
farm. However, at the Beatrix Potter attraction I gave in and bought the
Margaret Lane biography, The tale of Beatrix Potter. It's not the most
recent, but it was the first major, authorised biography of Potter and
is definitely worth a read.


  1. I am NOT a fan of Renee Zellweger, but I loved the movie she was in about Potter. Up to that point I knew nothing about her aside from her books and found her life to be very interesting.

  2. Such a lovely location, I can easily imagine taking a suitcase full of books to a place like that. Love that you spied a mouse - who knows, perhaps it was carrying a length of cherry twist!

  3. Thomas - we started watching the film last night; I'd seen it before but forgotten how annoying Zellweger is. I had to put up with my partner asking every 5 minutes - why couldn't they get an English actress to play the part!

    Darlene - I know you would love the Lake District and all of its literary connections.

  4. Your boyfriend gets full marks for pointing that out (repeatedly). Renee, Gwynneth and Anne Hathaway are not English, so quit giving them millions of dollars (not pounds) to have them pretend. They aren't good enough actors to pull it off. Now Kate Winslet playing an American--Brilliant!

  5. Hehe - I like the idea of Kate Winslet playing an American. Kate Winslet would have been ok in the role - she certainly couldn't have been worse than RZ!

  6. ow this I'd love to visit *adds another literary tourist attraction to the list*.

    Thanks for pointing me towards this post!

    Also, as for the movie, I did enjoy it for what it was (a bit fluffy in places if you ask me).


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